Cricket, lovely cricket

Franklin Johnston

Friday, March 16, 2012

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Cricket is politics. It was always so for us. It is a game between two classes. Exciting the senses and intellect, but the guts is putrid. It is not just a game, never was. Cricket was a joust between oppressor and oppressed. A tablet to etch our ambitions, assert our "manity" and humiliate our masters. The classes played cricket and the masses were excluded. The more you deny people a thing the more they want it. Cricket is going nowhere, but fans are kind. It served us well, we gamed them, used it to right a wrong and earn respect. Job done. Life is change and even the classes cannot afford a week off to watch a test match. Hard times are here; civil servants have to take leave to see a match - just not cricket!

On the pitch all were equal. We scrubbed our whites, played for clubs named for Empire and pounded the decolonisation ball with a control and mastery born of decades of patient, suborned service - ball men, water boys, "tea trolley" cricketers! Revenge is a meal best served cold. Our heroes were calm, restrained; deliberate shots, bowled length and line. The three W's had no premature ejaculation, just measured grief-giving stroke play, and they prevailed. Cricket trickled to Creoles, name-brand schools and landed in the cane piece. A thrill to thrash the headmen, overseers, imperialists in whites and shoes with studs. Fired by pent-up anger and desire of the masses in the stand-only seats, our heroes proclaimed we are as good as them! History beckons! The English public gave up on cricket - they could not win. Like us now. Batsmen our heroes, cricket our field of dreams. But it's not our game.

The "sedate and measured applause", crisp cucumber sandwiches and mellifluous adjectival phrases with lilt and cadence tracking the ups and downs of the game that's not us. The one syllable expletive, incredulous "$@&*% claaat" at a ducks. "Oy" or "Rasta" to hail a mate; driving beat, wild gyration at a six - there is a Jamaican in the bleachers. Hyperbole in every sinew. In Lord's cricket cathedral silence reigns; they clap four times for a good stroke, ten is wild excitement - not us. We gamed them, great role play, our shade our history on show. Steely men brought glory to West Indies. We beat the Empire at its game; the best cricketers in the world bar none. Reparation is nowhere as sweet. Job done, our rainbow cricketers retired and desire leached like blood in sand - finito, it is finished!

Cricket is now just a game. The angst and anger of our ancestors seem quaint. Didn't we always run things? We may screw up, but it's our own we screw up. Freedom to fail is the ultimate freedom. We were gifted West Indian cricket, but it now seems irrelevant. Our faces are in the workplace. we make decisions - to work or not, to be civil or not, to prosper our nation or not; we are in charge of ourselves, our country and our cricket. Let the record show we produce terrible results from best intentions; grief not progress; minstrels not workers; the swift gratification of football with its high emotion and orgasmic episodes and avoid the complex, meandering, intellectual, textured game of cricket. As elsewhere, tribal bickering took over. We have no common enemy to unite us so we make enemies of each other. The problem of cricket is spiritual and its resurrection is of the spirit. Selah!

Enter Portia regnant! Lifts the game from sports pages to high drama. Portia's eleven is a blackwash. With Kamla googly, bird-batting power the neo-imperialists have no chance. Barbados is silent. Why? They cut a quiet gas pipeline deal with Trinidad while we "cussin' an classin'". Business first, ball game after. Cricket was our liberation theology - us against them. It's a "head game"; the strategy of a test, tactics of a game; reading a play, field placement, bowling and stroke play, tempting and taunting - LBW umpire! The best cricketers were brain-led; never fit as footballers waving sweaty shirts doing somersaults. They now have fitness coaches, but the true game is still in the head. We have no coaches for that.

Yes, cricket is not my first love - much to the chagrin of family; not my second either. It ranks close to jacks - a girly game. I love it in a crisis, lunch in a client's box with brief glances on the pitch from a good book - I really, really need an iPad 3G, Wi Fi. Make my day!

Cricket is not intuitive. It is very much like a camel - an animal made by a committee. Caveman cricketer would not bowl, he would hurl a ball full force at the soft parts of opponents with glee. Yet cricket is sensual, a game of "legs"; fine leg - I'll pass, leg slip - sexy, mid and leg - Wow! And of course long leg, stop drooling, idiot! I prefer cricket on radio as I can conjure up positions in response to good commentary and when the ball goes to deep fine leg - ecstasy!

Did you see Portia in pads? Cricket to me is feminine, leggy and I would pay good money to see Portia's 11 in action - "Portia, Portia, Portia!" - versus Andrew's. I feel he has a good wrist action. Miss P sliced the WICB ball into the covers - which Is where I feel long leg is. I am no sexist, but I appreciate the unintended joys of cricket. I once chipped a tooth on a ball from a pal who was later a West Indian fast bowler. Teeth are expensive, but it was my badge of honour. Cricket is on TV for illiterates and to compensate for the lack of good wordsmith commentators. Get a radio or turn off the TV sound and watch - best cricket.

We put the economy on pause to solve a cricket problem. Why not? Can't Mr Gayle afford a lawyer? We know cricket prospered here once, our economy never ever did, so let's play cricket, it has better prospects. CSME will be gone in a flush. It cannot save itself, so why do we think it can save West Indies cricket? Some say cricket is now a political football. What a libel! Soccer fans should protest to Caricom and WICB. Others dilate on what "Caribbean people are expecting" of cricket and CSME. What do you expect? We expect little of cricket and less of CSME, so "pause" cricket as you did CSME, just do not pause our economy again. I am flabbergasted cricket was on Caricom's agenda. The Greek bailout was on the EU's, not their soccer racism crisis. Did CSME discuss our bailout? An economic union is useful if it helps us. CSME "nuh prekeh pon we!" I say cricket, fricket! Baseball, anyone?

Our masses do not benefit from cricket - high price access, food, drink, the cost of days-off so poverty means low attendance. Few saw the World Cup, as Babylon preferred empty seats rather than see our lumpen on TV. Cricket is still a game of two classes; cane piece on the pitch, Babylon in the boardroom. Portia does well to embrace the pitch, but we take no joy when our leaders play "bat and ball" with us. My PM, against the run of play you have many firsts. It says we can prosper before 2025. Cricket can wait. Be conscious, my friend!

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategy adviser and project manager.




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